Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Life Jesus Called Us To

As one who claims to follow Jesus, I have begun to rethink my position and attitude towards various aspects of my worldview. Many are aware of my opinions regarding Occupy Wall Street and the TEA Party, in which I may have unwittingly given the impression that I am all in favour of everything the rich do. Perhaps even subconsciously, I WAS in favour. I know all the arguments, for example, of why we can't pay sweat-shop employees - to use a generous term - the same wages we pay American or European workers. Have I become a shill for the rich? Regrettably, I think I have.

I have been reading and rereading James a lot lately. One thing that really stands out is the amount of text he uses to address rich people. To wit:

Chapter 1.10-11:
But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

Chapter 2.6:
. . . Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?

And the pièce de résistance, Chapter 5.1-6:
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

This is not a screed from a crazy, ranting Occupier. It was written a couple thousand years ago, by an apostle. Not your average, run-of-the-mill apostle, either. It was written by the brother of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This same Jesus called us to a life of . . . what? Prosperity? Health? Good times? Problem-free living? Is that your experience? It might be more than we think. In the U.S., people who are considered "poor" have a tendency to be overweight, and have televisions, air conditioning, video games and mobile phones. Some have jacuzzis. Compare that with the average European, many of whom do not have dryers. Even the Europeans, however, are running circles around the citizens of Asia, Africa and South America.

So what did Jesus call us to? In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Deny oneself? Take up a cross? What does THAT mean? It certainly doesn't sound like the prosperity gospel that some preach. It also doesn't sound like an excuse to acquire every gizmo and luxury that we can afford, or put on the charge card.

Please don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that we need to live in grass huts with no electricity. There is something to be said for the fact that many Christians have more funds at their disposal than others, because they don't blow it on alcohol, tobacco and drugs. On the other hand, maybe those funds could be used for a ministry where basic necessities are lacking. All it would take is for us to pause before grabbing the thing that is appealing to us, and remember the admonition in I John 2.16, "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."  Then, if we decide that the item in question is not what we might call "imperative," we could make a mental note as to the price of the item, and send that amount to a needy ministry instead.

Wouldn't that make a magnificent change, if amplified about a million times a year?  

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